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Andrei Degtyarenko and Lenochka did not exaggerate
when they described to their friends the magnificence of
the hospital in the capital into which Meresyev and
Lieutenant Konstantin Kukushkin were placed. Before
the war, this had been the clinic of an institute at which
a celebrated Soviet scientist had conducted research to
devise new methods of rapidly restoring people to health
after sickness or injury. The institute possessed firmly-
established traditions and enjoyed world-wide fame.
When the war broke out, the scientist converted the
clinic into a hospital for wounded army officers. The
hospital continued to provide its patients with every form
of treatment known to progressive science at that time.
The battles that raged outside of Moscow caused such an
influx of wounded that the number of beds had to be
increased fourfold compared with the number the clinic
had been designed for. All the auxiliary premises—the
visitors' rooms, the reading and recreation rooms, the
staff's rooms and the dining-rooms—were converted into
wards. The scientist even gave up his own study next to
his laboratory and transferred himself, with his books,
to a tiny room that had served for the nurse on duty.
Even then it was often found necessary to place beds in
the corridors.
From behind the glistening white walls, which looked
as though they had been deliberately designed for the
solemn silence of the temple of medicine, were heard the
groaning, moaning and snoring of the sick who were
asleep, and the raving of those in delirium. The place
was thoroughly impregnated with the oppressive stuffy
odours of war—of blood-stained bandages, inflamed
wounds, the decaying flesh of living human beings—
which no amount of airing could eliminate. Folding camp-
beds stood side by side with the comfortable beds made